Winter is time to evaluate the garden

Published 9:00 am Sunday, November 2, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

Now that the leaves have fallen and the gardens are put to bed for the winter, it’s time to evaluate your gardens. Hopefully you’ve been keeping a journal and took lots of photographs to help you evaluate the gardens.

Lang’s little stick girl was painted John Deere green with yellow hair to make her standout in the gardens. The mirrored window also draws your eyes back to that part of the garden. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Lang’s little stick girl was painted John Deere green with yellow hair to make her standout in the gardens. The mirrored window also draws your eyes back to that part of the garden. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Divide your evaluation into the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. Starting with winter, ask yourself if, when the ground was covered with snow, did you still have something beautiful or colorful in the gardens? If not, what could you add? Perhaps a tree with peeling bark, a lovely blue or green conifer that would add height, color and texture for you. It’s not too late to still plant a tree as long as you keep it well-watered until the ground freezes.

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One of the easiest ways to add winter interest is by inviting birds to feeders in your yard. What could be more beautiful on a snow-covered garden than the bright red of a cardinal or the blue of a blue jay? Make sure you locate your feeders where you can watch all of the activity from inside your home on a cold winter day. Also make sure that the feeder has a place close by for the birds to escape predators.

How about adding some garden art or decorations for color? Perhaps a brightly colored gazing ball will catch your attention and add lots of color to the white landscape. For me it was as simple as spray painting some of the garden decorations in bright colors. Several years ago my sister gave me a small rust colored planter in the shape of a stick-form girl with curlicue hair. This summer I painted her John Deere green with a yellow head and she really makes a statement standing against the gray privacy fence. She stands below the mirrored window frame that draws your eyes back to the farthest part of the garden. This fall the burgundy-colored ruby slippers oakleaf hydrangea made this combination so colorful.

In the cutting garden that is next to the driveway I planted diablo ninebark for three-season burgundy color and spring flowers, but it’s the peeling bark and shape that adds winter interest. A few feet away stands a weeping cherry that died last winter with the harsh temperatures and frost. This dead tree will be left standing because it adds so much winter interest with its weeping branches. During the summer months some of the taller annuals in the garden hide the dead branches from sight. This tree provides a landing place for the birds as they fly to and from the birdbath so it really is a dual purpose tree. Who knows, I might even spray paint the branches for more interest.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Sometimes just leaving a few colorful containers that are winter-hardy add interest to the gardens. Tuteurs, obelisks, pergolas, gazing balls, garden flags and other ornaments will add so much winter interest.

Located in the farthest western corner of my backyard hangs a patriotic red, white and blue windsock from a shepherd’s hook that blows in the winds. On the fence next to the windsock is a metal ornament in the same patriotic colors. They really stand out against the snow with their bright colors.

Layering your garden is important in all seasons and during the winter season it will add so much more interest and form. A tall stately oak is beautiful but pair it with smaller trees like a Japanese maple or Pagoda dogwood with multi-stemmed branches as understory trees and you just upped the wow factor in your winter garden. Trees and shrubs take your garden to new heights and add depth and dimension to a garden.

Next time we will talk about the spring gardens and what can be added to give interest to that season. Sometimes it is the small additions that really give you the biggest bang for your bucks.

“The days may not be so bright and balmy — yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell — some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” — Northern Advocate


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at